TOPEKA — Public school students will have to be vaccinated this year for meningitis and hepatitis A, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced Thursday.

Students entering kindergarten and first grade will need two doses of the hepatitis A vaccine, the department said. Students entering seventh grade need one dose of the meningococcal ACWY vaccine. Students entering their junior year of high school will need the meningococcal ACWY vaccine if not vaccinated before their 16th birthday.

Exemptions are allowed for medical reasons or religious beliefs. The regulations go into effect Aug. 2.

"We looked at the evidence," said KDHE secretary Lee Norman. "Both meningitis and hepatitis A illnesses are severe and preventable, and the safety profile of the vaccines is well-recognized. As an agency charged to establish policies that protect and improve the lives of Kansans, we felt the addition of the two vaccines was essential for the health and safety of our state.”

The agency proposed the new requirements earlier this year and gathered feedback from the public. Norman said the agency listened to all concerns.

Meningitis can infect the bloodstream and lining of the brain and spinal cord, leading to loss of limbs, developmental disabilities, seizures, deafness or problems with the nervous system. The bacteria that causes the disease can spread through coughing, sneezing and kissing. One in 10 will die from the disease, the agency said.

Hepatitis A is spread through fecal matter, and infections can lead to severe, months-long illness.